It’s gloves off in Finchley and Golders Green as shock poll puts Conservative incumbent behind Jewish Labour rival
The race to be MP for Finchley and Golders Green moved into top gear this week after the Tory incumbent claimed he’s better placed to represent Jewish constituents – as a new poll gave his Jewish Labour rival a surprise lead, writes Justin Cohen.
Both Mike Freer, who has represented the constituency since 2010 and Labour’s Sarah Sackman said the Lord Ashcroft poll of 1,001 voters – which put Labour two points ahead – would serve as a reminder of how close the battle is to win the seat with the largest percentage of British Jews.
While national polls continue to suggest no party will command enough support to secure an overall majority, Labour enjoys double digit leads in London. But Freer said he remained “confident my record will see me through on the day” despite the Ashcroft findings. He said: “It’s a reminder it’s a tight fight, as I’ve long said, but I don’t think this is necessarily an indication of the result.”
The latest survey comes despite snapshots of Jewish communal opinion continuing to point to a massive lead for David Cameron amid continuing disquiet over Labour’s stance on Israel during the Gaza war and its backing for a parliamentary motion on Palestinian statehood.
Pointing to his extensive efforts on behalf of the Jewish community, including his campaign to help secure further funds for security at Jewish buildings and resignation as a ministerial aide to vote against the Palestine motion, Freer said his record on issues of concern to Anglo-Jewry was “unimpeachable”. And he added: “A non-Jewish MP is able to represent Jewish constituents more forcefully as I can’t be accused of any vested interest. People know if I’m arguing for the Jewish community, it’s what I believe and what constituents want.”
Freer also pointed out the polling was conducted over four days including the final two days of Pesach, when Orthodox Jews would have been unable to respond.
Sackman, who is aiming to overturn a majority of nearly 6,000 in Labour’s 89th target seat, said: “I’ve never questioned mike’s qualification to represent his jewish constituents. but he is wrong if he thinks a jewish mp would represent the community less effectively”. And on the results of the poll, she added: “It’s only a poll. I just want to keep meeting as many people as possible.”
She insisted her work “was starting to pay off” following grassroots campaigns including “defending our libraries and nurseries from closure and protecting GP surgeries and disability services”, adding: “People from all parts of the constituency are saying Labour has a better plan for their families and living standards.”
The lawyer, who opposed Labour’s support for the Palestine motion, added: “Our local community only succeeds when everyone in the constituency succeeds. Most people I’m meeting agree we should all be in it together, but they don’t think the Conservatives really believe that. People just don’t think they will ever be better off with a Conservative government”.
The Liberal Democrats and UKIP were both on six percent in the voting intentions poll with the Greens on four percent. Lord Ashcroft, who is surveying the marginal seats that will decide on who wins the keys to Number 10, said the result was well within the margin of error and described it as a “snapshot rather than a prediction”.
Among the ten marginal surveyed last week, voters in Finchley and Golders Green were most optimistic about the economy yet it saw the “biggest swing to labour (as well as the lowest share for UKIP, meaning more direct switching to the main opposition party)”.
But Freer said he had not seen any haemoraging of support to Labour on the doorstep and expected to see more voters switching to him as they focus on “who they want in Downing Street and as an MP”.
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